The University of Maryland police trainee critically injured after being shot during a training exercise with Baltimore Police in February has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city and Baltimore County.
The lawsuit claims that Officer Rodney Gray and other trainees were directed to go behind a window inside an abandoned building where police were conducting an unauthorized training drill and that they were "targeted as part of the exercise."
Gray says instructor William Scott Kern then "intentionally or negligently" fired his weapon in the direction of the trainees. Gray was seriously injured, and Kern was eventually charged with second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. A trial is scheduled for August in Baltimore County.
A. Dwight Pettit, Gray's attorney, said the officer is continuing rehabilitation but "will be impaired for the rest of his life," including loss of one of his eyes.
"It's tragic that our officers can be exposed to something like this in a training process," Pettit said.
Reached for comment, a police spokesman said that the department does not comment on pending litigation. Kern's attorney, Shaun Owens, was in court and could not be immediately reached. He had previously said that the shooting was a "tragedy" but said Kern never meant to hurt anyone.
In addition to Kern, the lawsuit names Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and Officer Efren Edwards, a member of Batts' executive protection team who was a training instructor on site at the time of the shooting. Maj. Eric Russell, the head of the training academy at the time, is also named.
In naming Batts, the suit claims such training exercises "were occurring with sufficient regularity so as to constitute a pattern and practice of delegating, permitting, acquiescing and/or tolerating the usurpation of control" regarding where and how to conduct training and says Batts failed to properly monitor and curb the problem.
Police officials pledged transparency and accountability in the wake of the shooting, but few details have become public. The agency reinstituted so-called "active shooter" training a month later with new protocols. A new training director was named, though he soon left for another job and his replacement only held the position for a short time. Police have yet to name a new director for the academy.
On Feb. 12, Gray and other trainees were taken to the abandoned Rosewood facility in Owings Mills, which the lawsuit described as a "dangerous, uncontrolled, unsecure and unsafe location for defendants' style of training exercises, much less any type of firearms training." It describes "an abundance of metal, trash, rusty fixtures, appliances and other dangerous debris" that posed a risk to the officers.
The suit says the training instructors "had their loaded service weapons in their possession at all times during this exercise and each and all ... knew or should have known" that Kern was carrying his loaded service weapon instead of a training gun.